WHAT MELTDOWN? 0
TORONTO - She admits it was a busy day.
So when Simcoe-Grey Member of Parliament Helena Guergis showed up at the Charlottetown Airport back in February to catch a flight to Montreal, she was in a bit of rush.
She had been to three or four scheduled events in her role as Minister of State for the Status of Women, plus squeezed in a meeting with some students.
"We were running a bit behind, but we never asked for anything special (going through the airport)," said Guergis on Tuesday morning, after the Enterprise-Bulletin viewed the security footage in a Canadian Air Transport Security Authority office at Pearson International Airport.
The viewing was arranged by Guergis; as the 'subject' person in the video, CATSA is only permitted to show the footage to a third party with her consent. CATSA does not publicly release security footage.
It's that incident, on Feb. 19, that could be considered the starting point of the unravelling of the MP's political career within the Conservative Party. Two days after she went through the airport, an anonymous letter from an employee at the airport was sent to P.E.I. Liberal MP Wayne Easter detailing a chain of events at the airport, describing Guergis as "rude" and "difficult" as she made her way through security and pre-boarding.
A month later, the E-B broke the story that Guergis' staff were writing letters to the editor supportive of her without identifying themselves as employees of the MP; on April 8, the Toronto Star published an investigative piece on her husband, Rahim Jaffer, and suggested he was involved in shady business dealings - and that she was connected. The next day, Prime Minister Stephen Harper asked for her resignation from cabinet, and booted her from caucus as a result of "serious allegations" he then referred to the RCMP and the federal ethics commissioner.
Two weeks ago, the Mounties cleared Guergis; the ethics commissioner is still working on an investigation.
The airport employee's letter, which became public a week after the incident in the airport, suggested Guergis referred to P.E.I. as a "hellhole," and stated, "happy f---ing birthday to me."
The E-B was shown the scene - footage from a CATSA security checkpoint - from three different angles; the entire duration of her time at the checkpoint was about three minutes and 35 seconds.
There is no audio; that, QMI was told, would be against privacy legislation.
The letter spoke of Guergis refusing to remove her blazer and footwear before going through a screening device, then "huffily" removing her boots when asked by a screening officer after they set off an alarm (the boots had orthopedic metal shanks), and 'slamming' the boots into a bin before a screening officer put the boots through a x-ray machine.
The letter also stated Guergis shouted at her ministerial aide, Emily Goucher, to "get those for me. I'm not walking around here in sock feet."
The security footage viewed by the E-B tells a very different story, however.
Guergis and Goucher arrive in security shortly after 5 p.m.; both women are carrying suitcases, and Guergis has a garment bag slung over her shoulder.
The cases and garment bag are placed on the counter, along with a coat worn by Guergis. She is directed to walk through the screening device; evidently, the alarm goes off, and an officer waves a screening wand over Guergis.
She sits down, calmly removes her boots, and places - not 'slams' - the boots into a bin provided for her. The bin is then taken to the counter to be put through the x-ray machine.
At no point during the three-and-a-half minutes does Guergis appear angry or rude, nor - in spite of the lack of audio - does she appear to yell at anyone, much less Goucher.
Goucher does bring Guergis her boots, although that appears - from the footage - to be unprompted. The two then go off camera, on their way to the pre-boarding area.
Guergis said when Goucher and she entered the airport, she was met by a person with Air Canada who questioned her about how much luggage she was carrying - not knowing that one of the bags sitting beside Guergis actually belonged to Goucher.
"We didn't want to miss our flight, and I did say that about six or seven times," said Guergis, noting by the sixth or seventh time her voice may have taken on an urgent tone.
From there it was to the security checkpoint, then to pre-boarding. The anonymous letter also describes Guergis' alleged behaviour at that location, describing a scene where Guergis repeatedly attempts to get through a locked door while waiting for an Air Canada representative, and screaming and banging on the soundproof glass that separates the pre-boarding area from the tarmac, in order to get the representative's attention.
Guergis indicated she and Goucher, upon seeing the representative, attempted to draw her attention by waving - not banging on a window.
There is no video footage to confirm the letter's account of what happened in pre-boarding.
Eventually, the representative came and allowed the two women to proceed to the plane. Guergis recalled Goucher dropped her passport running across the tarmac; the passport was returned after the two women were on the plane.
Two days later, Guergis said she was called by the Prime Minister's Chief of Staff Guy Giorno, who evidently had received a copy of the letter, and reviewed its contents with the MP.
"I was saying I didn't know about all those things," she said. "I didn't even remember muttering anything."
The 'hellhole' comment, however, she did acknowledge; not in reference to Charlottetown or P.E.I, but "I have said something similar about other airports."
If there's footage of other parts of the airport, Guergis is not aware of it. In May she made a request of Charlottetown Airport to see any additional footage, and was told it was not likely she would see anything additional from what was in the possession of CATSA.
The actions of the Prime Minister's Office in denying her return to the Conservative Party continue to perplex her, even as she was cleared two weeks ago by the RCMP.
"As far as I'm concerned, they (the PMO) are making it up as this go along," said Guergis.
She's hopeful there may be moves in her favour this week, as the Conservative caucus is scheduled to meet. In spite of what appears to be the Prime Minister turning his back on a minister he once defended, "not everybody has a problem; there are some who do, but as time goes on that will change... there will be new players.
"It's just politics, and I can hold my head high because I'm proud of the work I've done," she said. "I am a Conservative, and I hope to return to the Conservatives."